In the final game of the 2021-22 regular season, the Charlotte Hornets topped the Washington Wizards, 124-108 and will advance to the play-in tournament as the 10-seed with a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks awaiting them on Wednesday.
LaMelo Ball led Charlotte (43-39) with 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Terry Rozier totaled 25 points (5-9 3P), three rebounds and six assists. Jalen McDaniels chipped in 14 points and six rebounds. Isaiah Thomas had 14 points, all in the third quarter. Miles Bridges turned in nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Rui Hachimura’s 21 points and four rebounds led Washington (35-47). Corey Kispert finished with 20 points (4-8 3P) and three rebounds. Daniel Gafford posted 13 points and seven rebounds while Deni Avdija recorded 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Vernon Carey Jr. posted 11 points and seven rebounds in his revenge game, and Ish Smith put up eight points.
Avdija drove to the rim for the game’s opening bucket and then stole a pass from Ball on the next trip for an easy transition dunk. Washington posterized Gafford for an and-one dunk that put the Hornets on the board. Kispert’s corner three put Charlotte down 11-5 early, forcing a timeout. Smart cuts to the rim led to easy looks for Washington, giving him seven early points. Following another triple from Kispert, the Hornets ripped off a 14-5 run that lasted through the end of the first quarter. Charlotte defense began locking the Wizards out of the paint to take a 32-29 lead after one.
A deep three from Ball off of an offensive rebound got the second quarter started before Harrell’s dunk and McDaniels’ Euro-step finish gave the Hornets a 39-32 lead. Washington finished a Euro-step right over the top of Ish Smith to put the Hornets up a dozen, but the Wizards hung around. An accidental elbow from McDaniels while running up the court sent Neto to the deck, earning McDaniels a technical and shrinking the lead to five, 46-41 after the free throw. The pace picked up as the second wound down, with neither team playing much defense. The Wizards cut the deficit to two and the teams traded buckets until the Hornets took a 56-54 lead into the break. Charlotte committed 10 turnovers in the first half.
Kispert’s layup ended a scoreless two minutes to begin the second half. The Wizards started the third quarter on an 11-6 run that put them ahead 65-62. Ball’s step-back four-point play resulted in him receiving a cut under his left eye, but it did give Charlotte the lead back. The Hornets kept trying to pull away, but Washington responded each time until Thomas went scorched earth to close the third. He put up 14 points (5-5 FG) in seven minutes to stretch the Hornets lead to seven, 89-82 heading into the final frame.
The Hornets held a seven-point lead through the first few minutes of the final frame before a three from Anthony Gill brought the Wizards within three. Rozier canned back-to-back triples on his way to 10-straight points before McDaniels canned a contested three from the left corner to put the game out of reach and allow the Hornets to coast to victory. Much to Eric Collins’ delight, Arnoldas Kulboka checked in and attempted the first shot of his young NBA career in the final minutes.
The 10-seed Hornets will play the nine-seed Hawks on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. If/when they advance, the next game will be against the loser of Brooklyn/Cleveland and will on ESPN again Friday. Let’s get it!